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Women’s hockey completes comeback in home opener

November 7, 2014

The return of hockey is a dream for the fourth nationally ranked UW-River Falls women’s hockey team, but the Falcons were rudely awakened on Saturday, for the first two periods of the game, anyway, before coming back to defeat the St. Thomas Tommies 6-4 after trailing by two goals twice.

“It was really a nightmare the first two periods, we didn’t play very well,” said Head Coach Joe Cranston. “We were sluggish. Definitely looked like it was our first game of the year. Had a lot of players who struggled, so it was really ugly and frustrating.”

The Falcons dropped the puck on the season facing the team they beat in the last game of last season. The Falcons defeated the St. Thomas Tommies in the NCAA Div. III third place game last winter and it was clear the Tommies were out for revenge early on Saturday.

The Tommies, currently ranked sixth in the nation, quickly scored in the first period. Just under five and a half minutes in, Maddie McGlade put in a goal to give the Tommies a quick 1-0 lead. Less than three minutes later, Courtney Umland put in a second goal for St. Thomas on its revenge tour.

The Falcons evened up the score before the end of the first period before letting St. Thomas roar back. Junior Chloe Kinsel scored an answering goal just over a minute after Umland’s to cut the Tommies lead to one. Freshman Carly Moran capped the first period scoring off with a goal of her own to tie the game at two.

St. Thomas got out to another two-goal lead in the second period. Tara Baago beat Falcons junior goaltender Meaghan Wenner to put the Tommies up by a goal. That was the last goal scored on the starting keeper as Wenner was pulled after allowing three goals in the first 24:53 of the Falcons’ new season.

Freshman Angie Hall was then put in at goalie, but St. Thomas found a way to put the puck past her as well. Rachel Friberg got the puck in Hall’s goal at the 16:40 mark to give the Tommies a 4-2 lead.

The most dangerous lead in hockey is a two-goal lead. The Tommies had already given up one in the first period and the Tommies did it again to end the game.

All-WIAC sophomore defenseman Paige Johnson erased the lead all by herself.

At 18:19 of the second period, Johnson scored an unassisted goal to stop the Tommies run and to make it a 4-3 contest. Johnson struck again early in the third period to tie it up. Johnson cranked in another unassisted goal five minutes in to the final period.

It took only 19 seconds for the Falcons to strike again. Senior captain Alice Cranston put in the go-ahead-goal virtually right after Johnson. Freshman Dani Kocina added an insurance goal just under ten minutes later to give the Falcons a 6-4 victory over the Tommies.

Cranston highlighted the change in his team between the sketchy first two periods and the dominating performance put on in the third period.

“It was just effort. I think we had a lot of the ol’ deer in the headlights the first couple periods,” Cranston said. “We went in, had a little talk about what it takes for effort, because we don’t have the talent to play that kind of hockey. We don’t have the depth or the talent to beat teams with depth and talent, so we need to play a much more aggressive style of hockey with a better work ethic.”

The Falcons need to maintain the work ethic for its next games. The Falcons play a home and home series against Bethel University this coming weekend. Cranston said that Bethel is just as good as St. Thomas. Bethel visits River Falls on Friday for the first game of the two-game series. Puck drop at Hunt Arena is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., on Friday, Nov. 7.

The Falcons soar into St. Paul, Minnesota, to take on Bethel on Saturday, Nov. 8. That game is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. The Falcons are 14-1-2 all-time against Bethel.

The growing rivalry between UW-River Falls and St. Thomas will continue this season and next. The Falcons will play at St. Thomas on Jan. 28, 2015. Cranston said next season’s opening weekend will also be against the Tommies.